Sitting in a hotel room in ice-cold New Jersey on an awful business trip, and see this in a long thread of tweets:
Which of course led me to fire back in the middle of a long complaint about the other local urban rail advocates who have been content to use yours truly for arguments once in a while but, pretty much, let me sit out here like a human pinata for years now under attack by Capital Metro flacks, both employed and hangers-on. First sample from before I saw the tweet above:
And then after:
(leaving out the back/forth with the guys who think that if it wasn't for bad old me, Capital Metro would have built light rail by now, because, of course, making friends with them has worked so well so far for the other 99 out of 100 local rail advocates).
You wonder why the bile? Still? Really?
These guys are absolutely intent on making the same mistake other rail advocates made in 2004 - believing that Capital Metro is actually planning on doing more than just politely listening to them. Hint: The other 99, let's say, urban rail advocates in 2004 actually accomplished LESS than this guy 'sitting at his computer calling people idiots' - they were completely snookered by Capital Metro's flacks into thinking that light rail, from Capital Metro, was coming right after the election - which, of course, Capital Metro never had any intention of doing.
The only reason we're even TALKING about urban rail right now is because Will Wynn and Brewster McCracken decided back in 2008 that they were going to pursue light rail despite Capital Metro. The only reason Rapid Bus has taken this long to ruin Guadalupe for light rail is because back in 2006, Lee Leffingwell and Brewster McCracken were convinced, partially due to this very blog, that it was a waste of money. If only 1% of the reason that those city council members did what they did was because of what I wrote, then I still accomplished infinitely more than the rail advocates who stayed quiet or even cheerled the Red Line in 2004.
Because, frankly, the local rail advocates who played nice all that time accomplished precisely jack squat. The only time anything has EVER been accomplished with Capital Metro is when people with power over them either exercised it of their own accord (think Krusee in 2000 and then again in 2004) or were convinced to do so by others (2006, 2008 as above). Period. Holding hands and playing nice just plays right into their hands - Capital Metro wants voters to think, like they did back in 2004, that they have the best interests of the urban core at heart - when, in reality, all they care about is spending more money on the Red Line, which is functionally a screw-central-Austin-forever project for the benefit of the suburbs. Because they know right now, they still need to fear suburban-oriented state legislators, but that local politicians won't do anything to them.
But here's the important part: JMVC and the people like him gladhand for their JOB - and they have all day to do it. I get a few minutes a week between my private-sector job and my family. All I have is volume, and it's too easy to isolate me like he did above - and too many people fall for it. I'm losing, folks, and when I lose, Austin loses all hope at a good urban rail system, because Capital Metro has no more interest today in light rail than they did in 2004 - they just want to sucker a new generation of rail advocates into thinking they do so competition for their dollars will cease to be an issue.
That's why the bile. Any questions? (I have one: Why the fuck should I bother?)
Since so many people either don't get why the Red Line continues to be a problem or are disingenuously pretending not to know, I'm starting a flowchart for you. Thank me later. Click on the image below to get the full (part 1 only) chart.
If you want more, let me know.
I'm way too busy for this. Up from 2-6 with the knees of death; work is a nightmare. But it's been long enough.
1. At 1300 boardings/day and overflowing on the weekend, this line would be the most failingest light rail line ever in the country. Ever. That's of any rail line with all-day service that purports to serve an urban area (remember, Capital Metro's been trying to claim this is just light rail with diesel engines for quite a while now - especially Lyndon Henry). For reference, Tri-Rail, a huge failure, racks up about 15,000 boardings/day. The worst light rail starts in the country easily hit low 5 figures (i.e. past 10,000)* in boardings - 15,000 is viewed as a failure for a reserved-guideway all-day service serving supposedly urban areas.
2. This line has (essentially forever) precluded the one slam-dunk light rail line we could have built here - the 2000 route - which would have easily surpassed 40,000 boardings/day within the first year (like Phoenix). We can now never have a starter line as good as Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Portland, Salt Lake, Minneapolis, or Seattle. We've wasted that existing rail corridor on the Red Line. We needed it for the first 2/3 of the 2000 light rail route - you cannot get a train in its own lane on Lamar and Guadalupe if it's not part of a non-stop trip up to the suburbs; there is zero chance of it ever happening now because the Red Line has crapped all over the remainder and those Red Line trains can never run into the urban core. Suburbanites don't like transfers - so the ridership of a light rail spur hitting the last 1/3 of the 2000 route would not be high enough to justify taking its own lane on the constrained parts of the Drag, meaning it will now never happen. No, JMVC, not ever, ever, ever. You killed it.
3. This line is in the process of killing the urban rail proposal in its cradle. While nowhere near as good as the 2000 route, the city's urban rail proposal, if given its own lane throughout downtown, could surpass 20,000 boardings/day fairly quickly. It could be a smaller, moderately successful version of the Houston plan (run in-street the whole way and try to hit as much density as you can). But it's going to be fighting the Red Line for money and political will; which leads us to:
4. Other local rail advocates have thrown in the towel and are now enthusiastically cheerleading the modest improvements in the Red Line's ridership since all-day service started. Remember, Capital Metro projected 1700-2000 boardings/day on day one on this thing with its original schedule so they're still only 2/3 of the way there, and only after cancelling the best express bus competition it had and expanding the hours of operation. Also worth noting that the operating subsidy (which was previously a monstrously high $36 per ride) has likely gone even higher given the added number of runs compared to the added number of riders. I will ask Capital Metro for the new figure and will post it when I get it.
5. Those other local rail advocates should consider that every dollar spent on the Red Line; and every bit of political will spent on it; is a dollar or push that's not available to make the city's urban rail line a success. And the Red Line's ceiling is very limited - perhaps 2000 boardings/day in 5 years given population growth, assuming another major employer or two can be coaxed downtown. You guys are giving up the shot at a truly transformative rail service - one which will turn the suburbanites into supporters - for this POS which will never be more than a tiny drop in the bucket. You are ensuring that the city's urban rail proposal will be fighting harder for fewer dollars, and will be running in shared lanes where even if it somehow gets passsed and built, it will suck ass.
That's all I have time for now. I may fill in a few more links to back-story later if I get a minute. We'll see. Watch this week's or next week's Chronicle for more from me.
* - note - I corrected a typo in this on 3/21/2011 - meant "low 5 figures", had originally written this as "high 4 figures" and then changed the number but forgot to change "high" to "low". "high 5 figures" would be a success anywhere.